In April 2020 while eCommerce demand was surging amid stay-at-home orders, Google made a stunning announcement that will have tsunami-like implications in the industry for years to come. Google Shopping will expand its results from “paid listings” only to a balanced approach with both paid and organic results similar to its other search products. According to Google they see “hundreds of millions of shopping searches” every day and by all indications this is a number set for dramatic growth.
After creating one of the first product search engines under the moniker of Froogle in 2002, ten years later they chose to convert it from organic listings into a pay-per-click site. The impact was a product catalog that listed only the subset of the most profitable products. At the same time Amazon was increasingly positioning itself as the starting point for product research. This move appears to be in direct response to Amazon’s success.
Implications for eCommerce
As a result of this shift, eCommerce sites have been offered a massive opportunity to rank in one of the forty page one results for Google Shopping. Not only is this the single largest organic search “land grant” in modern times, but it also repositions Google Shopping as the globe’s definitive source of products for sale and that’s likely to far outstrip any single eCommerce site.
This reversal in Google’s strategy should result in a significant shift in eCommerce strategies at a time when eCommerce is trying to digest the change in buying behavior as a result of the global pandemic.
Product Content Strategies
There are a few simple conclusions about what it will take for eCommerce sites to benefit from this change. As Google wrestles with millions of product options for any given search, the organic winners are likely to use many of the same techniques sites have been using to organic traffic from Google Search. This strategic shift, however, puts increasing emphasis on the product detail page and the need to think about SEO at the product level. The organic winners will be the product detail pages that present the following:
- Unique content. Duplicative manufacturer-supplied content will not be enough. Google wants the best results for page one and unless a site’s content stands out, it will likely be passed up.
- Engagement. While Google Search highly values user engagement, Google Shopping is likely to increasingly focus on optimizing its organic results for conversions. In other words, the sites that can address customer objections and get visitors to order, are likely to win most over time.
- Site Wide Benefits. Most sites compartmentalize site-wide benefits to separate areas of the site, but integrating the phrases used to modify a product search are likely to rank for a broader range of long-tail searches. For example, “free shipping” or “volume discount” could be worked into the product detail page content.
- Technical. Page speed, a clear presentation, consistent tagging and aggressive use of eCommerce-specific schema fields will continue to be important.
In part, Google relies on user interaction to help it understand how to rank results. Those products that get to page one first, are likely to get more user interactions and assuming a strong conversion rate, should find it easier to defend that top position. Sites that fail to jump on this opportunity may find that it’s much harder to displace a top result than if they had invested in a quick response. This first-mover advantage is common within search. At the same time product detail pages today, on a whole, are largely uncompetitive from an organic search perspective creating a significant new opportunity for eCommerce sites.
About The Author
Greg Harris is the Vice President Strategic Services at eZdia, Inc. eZdia designs and scales content strategies for companies like Amazon, Walmart and the best known eCommerce sites. The eZdia team of professional eCommerce writers and researchers have built millions of pages of content since its inception in 2013.